Refugee Support Network
Seven agencies, One common goal: Create better lives for refugees and immigrants in King County
This year, eight Refugee Support Network members made the commitment to live in poverty for a year in order to dedicate themselves to improving service to underserved refugee and immigrant populations in Seattle and King County. These eight AmeriCorps VISTAs work as a team, yet serve at one of seven refugee and immigrant social service agencies in King County in an independent capacity, pulling together their talents and experience to support and expand the work of the organizations. They make connections, coordinate programs, recruit volunteers, raise money, and conduct research in order to help resettle refugees arriving in King County from across the world. In the past quarter alone, RSN members raised $60,072.65 in cash resources, developed in-kind resources equaling $17,769.33, recruited 47 volunteers, and increased support services to 166 refugee clients!
AmeriCorps is a network of local, state, and national service programs that connects more than 70,000 Americans each year with service positions to meet our country’s critical needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment. AmeriCorps members serve with more than 2,000 nonprofits, public agencies, and faith-based and community organizations. VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) is a division of AmeriCorps where members leverage human, financial, and material resources to increase the capacity of low-income communities across the country to solve their own problems. AmeriCorps VISTA members, including those in the Refugee Support Network, receive only a small stipend to cover modest living expenses during their year of service.
The International Rescue Committee in Seattle acts as lead agency for the Refugee Support Network. Other local participating agencies are Asian Counseling and Referral Service, East African Community Services, Jewish Family Service, School’s Out Washington, and Somali Community Services Coalition. In September, the Coalition for Refugees from Burma will join the RSN as its newest agency.
Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) was founded in 1973 out of a grassroots effort. During that time, Asian Pacific Americans were at risk of misdiagnosis and receiving inappropriate care from service providers unfamiliar with their culture and language. Today, ACRS provides a continuum of services for primarily low-income, immigrant, refugee, American-born Asians and Pacific Islanders through 13 programs.
The Coalition for Refugees from Burma (CRB) has been helping refugees from Burma since 2006. Established as a Mutual Assistance Association and registered 501c(3) in 2009, CRB’s goal is to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate social support services to improve the living conditions and quality of life of resettled refugees. CRB intentionally reaches across ethnic, religious and language barriers to foster community cohesion and build capacity.
East African Community Services (EACS) was established in 2000 to provide culturally specific advocacy, information, referral, and direct social services to the more than 20,000 Somali, Oromo, Ethiopian, and other East African refugees living in King County. EACS is committed to improving the well-being and quality of life for East African immigrants and refugees by providing the tools necessary for men, women, youth, elders, and families to succeed in the Pacific Northwest.
Jewish Family Service (JFS) was founded in 1892 to provide refugee resettlement to persecuted Russians Jews. Today, the Refugee and Immigrant Service Centers (RISC) of JFS provide services such as resettlement, employment placement, ESL citizenship classes, and access to valuable community resources to refugees and immigrants from all religions and cultures throughout King County. The RISC team strives to encourage self-sufficiency, while at the same time identifying critical needs that require immediate intervention and case management.
School’s Out Washington (SOWA) was founded in 1987, and the organization’s history reflects the emergence and development of the afterschool and youth development (AYD) professional field. SOWA’s mission, vision, and values reflect a deep commitment to the advancement of the AYD field, the individuals who work in the field, and the children, youth, families, and communities served by the field. SOWA administers Washington State’s Refugee School Impact Grant, which supports school systems statewide impacted by significant numbers of refugee children and youth, ages 5-18, in the country three years or less.
Somali Community Services Coalition (SCSC) was formed in 1995 by a group of Somali community leaders to assist the large influx of Somali refugees and immigrants in adjusting to their new lives in the Seattle area. The mission of Somali Community Services Coalition is to enhance and improve the well-being and quality of life of Somali families and individuals, while maintaining the cultural heritage of the Somali community.
For more information about the Refugee Support Network and the work of the AmeriCorps VISTAs, visit the RSN blog at http://refugeesupportnetwork.wordpress.com/.